2016 Debate Recap: The Final Presidential Debate’s 5 Most Important Moments

  • Copy by: Daryl Lindsey

With voting day fast approaching, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton met on the debate stage to duke it out one final time before polls open. 

The third 2016 presidential debate took place at University of Nevada, Las Vegas and was moderated by Fox News’ Chris Wallace.

If you couldn’t tune into the debate, here are the five most important moments you missed:

1. The Supreme Court

There is currently one open seat on the Supreme Court—and three other justices, who serve until death or retirement, over the age of 80. That means the odds make it VERY likely that the next president of the United States will have the power to appoint at least two, if not three or four, justices to the court. Considering the Supreme Court’s power over laws that affect us all on a daily basis, this is a BIG deal.

Clinton answered first, citing she would elect a Supreme Court that supported Women’s Rights, LBGTQ+ rights, and that would work to overturn Citizens United—the case that loosened campaign finance restrictions and “permits dark, unaccountable money to come into our electoral system.” 

Trump took a moment to first call out Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who earlier in the election cycle called Trump a “faker”—a statement she later said was “ill-advised.” He then went on to say that any judges he elected would be in strong support of the second amendment and be pro-life. When asked, Trump said Roe v. Wade (the case that made abortions legal at the federal level) would “be overturned automatically” if he elected all pro-life judges, sending those decisions back to the state level.


2. ‘Bad hombres’ 

Conversation turned to the candidates’ immigration policies. Trump says, in addition to building a wall and cracking down on drug trafficking, he wants to make sure all undocumented immigrants are rounded up and deported. “We’re gonna get them out, secure the border, and once the border is secured at a later date, we’ll make a determination as to the rest,” Trump said. Trump criticized Clinton, claiming she wants to give undocumented immigrants amnesty. In a statement that caused quite a controversial stir on Twitter, Trump said, “We have some bad hombres here and we’re going to get them out.” 

Clinton’s immigration policy does not include amnesty, but rather is an extension of President Obama’s Nov. 2014 executive action, which would offer about five million undocumented workers renewable work permits in the U.S., but would not grant them citizenship.


3. Heated words on Russia 

Clinton attacked Trump during the debate, claiming Russia would like to see Trump in power “because he’d [Vladimir Putin] rather have a puppet as president of the United States.” 

Trump quipped back, “You’re the puppet.” When the moderator asked Trump if he would condemn the reported Russian involvement in the election, Trump replied, “Of course I condemn” the hacking.

He followed up by saying, “If the United States got along with Russia, it wouldn’t be so bad.” 


4. Sexual assault claims refuted

In the wake of the release of 2005 tapes allegedly recording a 59-year-old Trump making lewd and sexually aggressive comments toward women, several women have come forward claiming Trump kissed or groped them without consent. 

Trump claims these allegations have been “debunked” and the Clinton campaign is responsible. 

“All fiction,” he said. “Possibly started by [Clinton] and her very sleazy campaign.” 


5. No ‘smooth transition of power?’ 

Trump did not say whether or not he would accept the results of the Nov. 8 election should Clinton win. Trump alleged that voter fraud could spin the election in Clinton’s favor and has said on many occasions he believed the election to be rigged. 

When pressed again if he would accept a Clinton presidency, he replied: “I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?” 

Clinton jabbed back, calling his comments “horrifying,” and in direct conflict with the way free and fair elections worked. “We’ve been around for 240 years,” she said. “We’ve accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them.”  


If you missed the debate last night, you can watch the whole thing here, or read through NPR’s fact-checked transcript.